Knowing Your Strengths

Ken ColemanBy Ken Coleman5 Minutes

Did you enjoy doing something as a kid, but wrote it off as silly? Were you discouraged from pursuing something you really enjoyed when you were younger? As a result, you might feel unsatisfied and frustrated with your direction in life.

Meaningful, fulfilling work happens when you use your talent (what you do best), to perform your passion (what you love to do most), to achieve your mission (results that matter deeply to you). The more you understand yourself and what’s important to you, the more clarity you’ll have in your career—and the closer you’ll be to finding work you’re excited about.

Here are some questions to help you dig down and get specific:

What kind of work comes easily to me? 

Maybe it’s caring for your pets, or organizing your house. Maybe it’s fixing cars, or keeping a garden alive and thriving. Whatever it is, don’t judge the skill or underestimate its potential. You might think a particular skill isn’t a big deal, but you probably haven’t thought about all the ways that skill could transfer to the workplace.

What were my best subjects or activities in school?

Were you a piano prodigy? A great speller? Were you on the quiet side, but always ready to listen? All these are clues that can point you toward your natural talents.

What do people compliment me on?

Have you noticed any patterns in the comments or compliments you get from others? These could be simple or detailed, deep or surface level. I’m not talking about grandma saying you should be a model, or your dad saying you could be president one day. All that has value, but you should really pay attention to compliments from people who don’t already think you’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.

What are my strongest personality traits?

Don’t be humble with this question! Sometimes you have to give yourself a pat on the back, and be confident in the strengths you know you have.

Which skill set do I gravitate toward?

Are you better with people, manual labor, or data? Skill sets tend to fall into these three areas. Although, there are other areas, and it’s possible to be good at more than one.

Some people would rather talk to customers on the phone than make a spreadsheet. For others, picking up the phone is their worst nightmare. Some people like to make or fix things, while others are happiest crunching numbers at their desk. Take time to think about which of these categories, if any, resonates with you.

What’s usually my role when I’m part of a team project? 

Group projects can tell you a lot about your strengths, and the kinds of roles you naturally fall into. Take stock of the last few team projects you’ve been part of, and see if a pattern starts to emerge.

What kind of training or experience do I already have? 

Even if you don’t have a degree in a particular subject or haven’t had a certain kind of job, it doesn’t mean you don’t have experience in that area. Classes, certifications, trainings, internships, freelance work, or just doing something because you enjoy it counts as experience.

Maybe you’ve never had an education or paid work in event planning, but you’ve hosted plenty of dinners, been the best man or maid of honor for a couple of friends, or planned five years’ worth of birthday parties for your kids. That sounds like event planning experience to me! You could take a few courses in event planning, and start building a portfolio from there.

Once you open up, dig deeper, and get to know yourself a little better, some of those career ideas you’ve had floating around in your head might not seem so farfetched after all!